Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 2

February 6, 2017

construction problems

Is there a correlation between emotional intelligence and performance?

I facilitated a program for a top 100 contractor based in the southern United States using emotional intelligence as a foundation for leadership development. After the managers were evaluated, I ranked their interpersonal scores (empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationship skills) from the highest to the lowest. This company had their own ranking system in order to identify their star performers, the ones who contributed most to the success of the company. The astonishing fact was that the company’s overall ranking and the ranking of interpersonal skills correlated almost one-to-one. This told us that the managers who had the best interpersonal skills were also the company’s stars. They were the managers involved in the most profitable projects who contributed the most to the company’s bottom line.

Multi-Health Systems has a program called Star Performer where companies look at the EQ-i® profiles of their star performers for particular departments or positions and determine with statistical accuracy which emotional competencies are essential for high performance. Then it is just a matter of recruiting, hiring, and training for those competencies. The drawback to this approach is in the performance criteria, which must be objective. For sales, performance is objective and clear. For project managers, it is less clear. You may have a high performer that loses $100,000 on a project that would have lost $1 million. Or you may have a low performer that makes $500,000 on a project that was supposed to make $1 million.

But if you can decide on some fairly objective performance criteria, it soon becomes clear which emotional competencies are required for that level of performance.  And think about where the industry is going.  Project delivery methods are moving toward more collaborative environments:  IPD, ILPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  With these more collaborative methods, it takes a different set up skills to be successful. According to a recent ENR article, the Construction Industry Institute recently did a study and found that “working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute.  If you want a high level of performance on your projects, perhaps it is time to start paying attention to your project teams’ emotional intelligence.

Why Project Relationships Go Horribly Wrong and How to Prevent it

June 7, 2016

a skyscraper with glass walls and the reflection of landmarks on the opposite side

“Building is the quintessential act of civilization.” Tracy Kidder

Think about it.  If three people washed up on a deserted island, the first thing they would do is collaboratively build a shelter.  Unless, of course, the three people were an architect, owner’s rep, and contractor.  Then, they would have to wait for two lawyers to wash up on the beach so that they could proceed with the project.

There is a project that I read about recently where the parties involved hate each other. I don’t say that lightly.  You can tell from their comments that they truly loathe and despise each other.  Here is a link to the ENR article titled  A Hospital Job Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch:


How did this project get to this point?  Could the parties involved have seen this coming?  How did they begin the project, and more importantly, what can you do on your projects to avoid such a fate?

We have created a program called connEx, which creates high performing teams who care about each other’s personal and professional success and well-being.  Click here for more information.

The Construction Industry is Finally Focusing on People!

April 23, 2015

Improve soft skills

“Emotional intelligence emerges as a much stronger predictor of who will be most successful because it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships that determines how well we do once we are in a given job.” Daniel Goleman



Okay, by now most of you know that emotional intelligence is my thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the ONLY thing.  I’m not a hammer looking for a nail in everything that I see.  There are other things that make people and projects successful.  Things like technical knowledge, education, experience, creativity, innovation, and a resourceful project team among many others.  All I am saying is that we have become so automated with how we market, bid or negotiate, budget, schedule, and build that this people thing seems to be the only thing left that can be dramatically improved.  It’s the final frontier.  And ask yourself a question:  Are most problems on a project process related or people related?  Everyone knows the answer to that one.  Even safety, quality, and productivity have much more to do with relationships and motivation than some technical procedure that someone doesn’t follow.

I attended Penn State’s PACE Conference this week.  PACE stand for Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence.  It’s a consortium of students, faculty, and industry.  And the amazing things is that EVERY SINGLE PRESENTATION talked about soft skills, emotional intelligence, trust, collaboration, and all of those things that 13 years ago, when I started my business were WAY out there.  I guess I was just a little early.  I imagine 13 years ago, the focus was mostly on technical subjects and research.

From strictly a business point of view, think of emotional intelligence as a differentiator.  Most contractors and engineers have the same reputation, the same brand identity, and the same marketing.  They are reliable, responsible, technically excellent, and they can execute a project like nobody’s business.  But it seems to me that everyone is bringing that to the table.  Contractors get the same vendor and subcontractor and material prices so there is no competitive advantage there.  So what is your competitive advantage?  It’s your people.  Period.  And it’s not their technical expertise or experience.  That is an expectation.  That is the price of entry.  What owners are looking for are people who can create great relationships, who are easy to work with, who create a sense of team.  And many of the owners want the process to be more fun and engaging.  Life’s too short.  That’s why we teach our clients how to create a positive emotional experience instead of transaction.  The book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman tells us through a lot of research that people make buying decisions based more on emotion, memory, and ease than anything else.

If you are focused on the numbers, reducing margins and overhead, looking for technical solutions for a competitive advantage, then you may be looking in the wrong place.  Owners will choose you because they like you, trust you, and respect you.  They will choose you because of the way you made them feel during the last project.  I know what some of you are thinking.  It’s all about the low bidder.  That is rapidly changing.  Defaulting subcontractors and contractors, rising material prices, high risk, and low margins make everyone fight for every nickel.  And many of these projects are ending up in court.  The lawyers will be the only ones making money on those projects.

If you want to know more, contact my admin, Casey at Casey@brentdarnll.com and mention this blog.  She will send you the PDF version of the third edition of The People Profit Connection for free.


The Age of Relationships

March 5, 2015


Pay attention.  We are coming to the end of the Information Age and have  now entered the Age of Relationships.  The signs are everywhere.  It permeates every industry.  It is part of the globalization of everything from business to governments to resources to weather to our very survival.  The younger generations were raised with collaboration and that sense of being interconnected.  Relationships give you motivation, inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.  Yet, in many industries, including the construction industry, this is something we have yet to embrace.  Perhaps it is because of the technical nature of the industry.  Perhaps it is because of the typical emotional intelligence profile of the people in the industry.  Empirically, relationships are not our best thing.  Every single group I have ever worked with over the past 12 years have the same profile.  The three lowest scores on the EQi are ALWAYS emotional self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.  The three highest scores are ALWAYS assertiveness, independence, and self-regard.  This is a recipe for relationship disaster.  No wonder it’s such a hard business.

It’s time that we tackle these tough people issues and embrace these collaborative concepts.  Focusing on relationships is no longer touchy-feely.  Neuroscience is verifying many of these concepts of connection from a physiological standpoint.  We all have mirror neurons in our brains that mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  They light up and connect us together whether we are aware of it or not.  We can no longer ignore these interpersonal connections.

In South Africa, they have a philosophy called Ubuntu.  It is a sense of being connected to everyone else on the planet.  When two people greet each other, the first person says, “I see you.”  The second person responds by saying, “I am here.”  There is real significance in that exchange.  Without the acknowledgement from the first person, the second person doesn’t even exist.  Imagine the power of that if you walked down the hallway and was pre-occupied with something and didn’t greet the other person.  What you would be saying is that they don’t exist.  I believe that this philosophy prevented South Africa from devolving into a bloody civil war after apartheid ended.  The black South Africans merely moved on and embraced the end of apartheid without retribution, without punishing the whites.  It is because they feel so interconnected.  They believe that if they harm someone else, they are harming themselves.

Can we move toward this sense of being connected?  Can we embrace this new way of collaborating?  Can we change the industry for the better by focusing on people and relationships?  Time will tell.  As Ben Franklin said, “We must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.”

Inspire Genius in Yourself and Innovation in Your Company

February 12, 2015


“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Albert Einstein


You only have two competitive advantages:  Your people and innovation.  And your people are the ones who will be coming up with innovative ways to do things.  Companies must innovate or they may not be around in the near future.  Companies like Google, Apple, Zappos, and Cisco all invest a lot of  time and energy on two things:  1.  Making sure that their people are engaged and excited about what they are doing.  and 2.  Creating an atmosphere of innovation.

How do they do this?  The first thing is to pay attention to the needs of the employees.  They continuously talk to employees about how they appreciate what they do.  Managers walk around and interact and get to know the employees and their passions, likes, dislikes, and motivations.  Secondly, they create a climate where innovation is rewarded.  There are no bad ideas.  Everything is considered.  They don’t negate new ideas.  They embrace everything as a possibility and discuss the options.  They create an environment where people can come together formally and informally to share ideas and thoughts on how business is done and how to make it better.   Employees are taught to silence that inner critic and mangers are taught to say “yes” and “thank you”  instead of “no, but” and “we tried that before and it didn’t work.”  Let me be clear.  “Yes, and . . . ” doesn’t mean that you agree with everything.  “Yes, and . . . ” creates a healthy dialogue of meaningful discussion.

What is the atmosphere at your company?  Is it open to new ideas and innovation?  We all must think very differently to survive in this economy.  Early designers of flying machines used movable wings because it emulated a bird in flight.  But it wasn’t until the paradigm was shifted with fixed wing aircraft that manned flight became possible.  There are artificial hearts that emulate a real heart with chambers and a flow of blood that causes a heartbeat.  But the latest innovation in that arena is an artificial heart with continuous flow.  There is no beat.  It is a simple pump that continuously flows the blood through your body.  This paradigm shift is leading to very efficient and simple artificial hearts.  But it took someone to look at the way things were being done and say, “What if?”

What is your expertise?  What are your people’s talents?  How can you leverage that in a business setting to create new revenue streams?  Don’t think about how you’ve always done business.  Think about what value you and your people bring and see if that is applicable in other areas.  Get a group discussion going and brainstorm this concept.  You never know where it will lead.

Managing Uncertainty on Construction Projects with Applied Improvisation

January 8, 2015


I just read a report prepared by McGraw Hill titled Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction.  It was very informative.  Check it out:


What struck me the most about this report is the approach to mitigate uncertainty.  These are the basics:

1.  Imperfection is inevitable.

2.  Change orders are not inherently bad.

3.  Looking deeper at Owner-driven causes of uncertainty.

4.  Start early, integrate quickly and work together as a whole so you know what you’re getting into.

5.  Communication, collaboration and integration: early, open and often.

6. Managing risk through contingencies.

7.  Benefits of technology.

Most of these could be a handbook for applied improvisation. Applied improvisation takes improvisational exercises and applies them to business, learning, leadership, and life.

Here are the basic rules of improvisation:

1.  Everything is an offer. Use whatever you have.   This relates directly to numbers 1, 2, and 6 above.

2.  Listen.  This relates directly to numbers 2 and 7 above.

3.  Make the other person look good.  This relates directly to numbers 3 and 5.

4.  Adopt a “Yes, and . . . ” attitude.  Always explore “What if . . . ”

5.  Learn to fail, learn, and be better.  This relates directly to numbers 1 and 2.

Applied improvisation is all about learning to deal with the uncertainties of life and work and can be directly related to the uncertainties on any construction project.

If your project team learned these basic techniques, they would be much better equipped to handle the uncertainty on their projects.  For more information, contact me.

Beyond Partnering: How to Create High Performing Teams on Projects

November 13, 2014

blue angels


Traditional partnering sessions are a waste of time and money. Period. I have developed a methodology that goes beyond the traditional partnering session and contributes to the success of all of the project stakeholders and the project. Here is the step-by-step process:

  1. We start with an introduction to emotional intelligence and the basics of beyond partnering. Everyone learns what emotional intelligence is, how it can be measured and improved, and how it relates to project and personal success. We also introduce the concept of physical well-being and the mind-body connection and how it affects emotional, physical, and mental performance, which contribute to project success.
  2. Project team members take the EQi 2.0 evaluation and Symptom Survey (physical evaluation). We will take the project team through their results and how it affects team dynamics, communication, stress management, relationships, and ultimately, personal, professional, and project success.
  3. Each project team member will create their own personal, professional, health, and project goals. While we are in this process, it’s a good time to focus on areas in the project stakeholders’ lives that they want to change-finances, health, a new hobby, quitting smoking, eating better, etc. We will take the group through project goals so that everyone is clear on the overall goals and how their personal goals and company goals tie into this entire process. We will also discuss the basics of communication, roles, and responsibilities for each project stakeholder and company. We will set metrics for project success and measure these throughout the project.
  4. This preliminary work will give participants a better understanding of themselves, their limitations, and what to work on. We also do some initial exercises to set a baseline. One is called the Four Quadrants. Participants divide a piece of flip chart paper into four quadrants and label them family, this project, personal, and future vision. At the top, they put their name and their favorite piece of music. At the bottom, they put some of their challenges for the project, personally, and professionally. This is a great exercise. It breaks down barriers and creates a lot of emotional threads among the participants. We keep this information for each individual forever so we can check in occasionally to see what has changed.
  5. We also have them write a letter to themselves dated the last day of the project that lists all of their accomplishments that they have attained as a result of the program as well as the results of the project. This future diary plants all of their accomplishments and project success in their subconscious so that even if they aren’t thinking about them consciously, they are still working on them. Recently, we have given the participants the option of making a mind movie, which is a visual future diary.
  6. There is much accountability built into this process.  We have cross function accountability partners.  For instance, the architect representative might be the accountability partner of a contractor’s project manager.  The owner’s representative might be the accountability partner of a superintendent.  They hold each other accountable throughout the course of the project.
  7. We also teach everyone how to coach each other.  There is a simple methodology where project stakeholders perform peer-to-peer coaching and group coaching, using the project as a backdrop and catalyst to help each other attain all of their goals and overcome any issues.
  8. We determine the group scores and address any group developmental needs as well as the project needs.
  9. We deliver learning modules spread throughout the project on various topics such as team-building, innovation, communication, relationships, stress management, time management, presentation skills, etc.  We create an atmosphere of learning, not an atmosphere of training. We also use the latest studies in neuroscience that tells us how people learn and retain information. We involve as many of the senses as possible during the learning process. We utilize reflective learning continually because repetition creates retention. We reflect each week we meet upon personal success and project success and measure the metrics that we have designated to determine progress.  These learning modules may also include areas specific to the project or group such as business strategies and vision. The programs we provide are truly customized to each individual, to each group, and to each company, and each project. And with minimal lecture and self-directed, experiential learning, activity-based learning, each program is truly unique.  This ongoing learning and checking in ensures success of individuals and the project.
  10. It is our experience that these leadership programs that we do for individual companies create a lot of closeness and trust and high performing teams.  We have taken the outcome and now applied it to projects.  When we apply this same methodology to projects, we create high performing teams and successful projects that go beyond partnering.